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A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone?
#1995787 12/07/12 06:16 AM
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There are very few contemporary piano concertos that are heard or performed these days, even though many of them are very accessible (as in 'melodious'....). In fact, the most recent piano concerto that I ever hear regularly is Barber's, and that is 50 years old and in a post-Romantic idiom (and his Violin Concerto is performed far more widely, even so).

So, how about contemporary concertos that are truly contemporary, by living composers, and in a recognizably contemporary idiom but still 'accessible' even to those of us who think that piano concertos ended with Rach/Pag (or, at a pinch, with Bartok's 3rd....)?

There's Einojuhani Rautavaara's, which have been recorded (including by Ashkenazy), but I nominate a concerto by one of his pupils, Kimmo Hakola, instead, because it sounds truly modern, even from the start (ethereal high-lying violins over growling contra-bassoons), and its language is quite unlike that of any other piano concerto, encompassing not just Nordic gloom but also klezma, jazz, folk, Rachmaninoff-like romanticism and melodic & harmonic invention, Bartokian-like abrasiveness as well as moments of sheer beauty within its nine movements (one of which is a Cadenza for solo piano) and close to an hour. There's a great recording of it by Henri Sigfridsson.

My other nomination is André Previn's Piano Concerto, written for Vladimir Ashkenazy (who also recorded it with Previn). Apparently, the composer had said it's too difficult for him to play, because it was written with Ashkenazy's techical prowess in mind. And Ashkenazy wanted 'tunes', which he duly got, especially in the slow movement. He also got a bit of jazz too, and Previn has thrown in a bit of 'Russianness' into the mix. What a pity it's not been taken up by other pianists since (as far as I know), as it's not just entertaining and tuneful but also beautiful in places, just like Hakola's in his very different manner.

So, do you know a piano concerto by a living composer that you feel is unjustly neglected even though it's 'accessible'?


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone?
bennevis #1995789 12/07/12 06:20 AM
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I like the Peter Sculthorpe piano concerto. There are also some great ones by Schnittke. Mind you, I'm not that fussed about the music I listen to being 'accessible'.

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone?
debrucey #1995790 12/07/12 06:24 AM
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Originally Posted by debrucey
I like the Peter Sculthorpe piano concerto. There are also some great ones by Schnittke. Mind you, I'm not that fussed about the music I listen to being 'accessible'.


I haven't heard Sculthorpe's concerto yet but his other music certainly sounds wonderful (with or without didgeridoo....). Incidentally, while we're Down Under, Carl Vine's Piano Concerto was recently performed by Piers Lane - hopefully a recording will come out eventually.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone?
bennevis #1995797 12/07/12 06:52 AM
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Krzysztof Penderecki piano concerto is remarkable, you shold look at this.

Last edited by kapelli; 12/07/12 06:53 AM.
Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone?
kapelli #1995798 12/07/12 06:58 AM
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Originally Posted by kapelli
Krzysztof Penderecki piano concerto is remarkable, you shold look at this.


Thanks, I will. Which Polish pianist(s) has played it?


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone?
bennevis #1995838 12/07/12 08:28 AM
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Lang Lang playing Nigel Hess's Queen Mother concerto sets the bar for "accessible".


Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone?
wr #1995840 12/07/12 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by wr
Lang Lang playing Nigel Hess's Queen Mother concerto sets the bar for "accessible".



It reflects the tastes of the Royal Family, which means 'no dissonances' (unless it's rock music..... grin).


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone?
bennevis #1995924 12/07/12 11:45 AM
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He isn't alive, but Lutoslawski's Piano Concerto (1987) is a masterpiece. It was written for Krystian Zimerman.

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone?
bennevis #1995999 12/07/12 02:10 PM
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Lol, I just listened to Rautavaara's 3rd piano concerto (which is also written for Ashkenazy) and then I read this. I really like Rautavaara's neo-romantic style. I think his music has just the right amount of modernism in it.

Kapustin has composed at least one piano concerto, hasn't he?

Olli Mustonen composed his first symphony in 2011 and is composing a second one. Maybe a piano concerto is coming soon?

Edit: There's a Fantasy for piano and string orchestra by Mustonen.

Last edited by Verbum mirabilis; 12/08/12 04:09 AM.

Working on

Chopin: op. 25 no. 11
Haydn: Sonata in in Eb Hob XVI/52
Schumann: Piano concerto 1st movement
Rachmaninoff: op. 39 no. 8

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone?
jeffreyjones #1996010 12/07/12 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
He isn't alive, but Lutoslawski's Piano Concerto (1987) is a masterpiece. It was written for Krystian Zimerman.
A damn fine work, and one of my personal favorites.

I do wonder if most listeners would think of it as "accessible", given that many consider Bartok's first two piano concerti to be "difficult" to listen to. IMHO they aren't any more challenging to listen to than Le Sacre (which most listeners take in eagerly).

While I'm at it, I think Salonen's Piano Concerto is another fine work (and, I'd like to think, quite accessible, given its visceral nature and relative consonance).

Speaking of Rautavaara, IMHO his Second Piano Concerto is miles ahead of the vapid Third. I'd even put the sometimes laughable First Piano Concerto ahead of the Third.


Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
Die Predigt vergessen.

Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie alle.
Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone?
bennevis #1996033 12/07/12 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by wr
Lang Lang playing Nigel Hess's Queen Mother concerto sets the bar for "accessible".



It reflects the tastes of the Royal Family, which means 'no dissonances' (unless it's rock music..... grin).


Is there much dissonance in rock music?

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone?
Janus K. Sachs #1996265 12/08/12 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Janus K. Sachs
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
He isn't alive, but Lutoslawski's Piano Concerto (1987) is a masterpiece. It was written for Krystian Zimerman.
A damn fine work, and one of my personal favorites.

I do wonder if most listeners would think of it as "accessible", given that many consider Bartok's first two piano concerti to be "difficult" to listen to. IMHO they aren't any more challenging to listen to than Le Sacre (which most listeners take in eagerly).



Reading this reminded me of when I was in my early teens (half a century ago) and experiencing a lot of great music for the first time. I loved Bartok's 2nd concerto immediately on first hearing (it was a radio broadcast), and I wanted to hear it again right away (which wasn't so easy to manage back then, where I lived). In contrast, Mozart's concertos weren't particularly accessible to me at that time, and I didn't enjoy them until much later in life.



Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyon
wr #1996704 12/09/12 02:01 AM
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Originally Posted by wr
Reading this reminded me of when I was in my early teens (half a century ago) and experiencing a lot of great music for the first time. I loved Bartok's 2nd concerto immediately on first hearing (it was a radio broadcast), and I wanted to hear it again right away (which wasn't so easy to manage back then, where I lived). In contrast, Mozart's concertos weren't particularly accessible to me at that time, and I didn't enjoy them until much later in life.
My experience too (at much the same time). I was so excited to be discovering Bartok (particularly loved the sonata for 2 pianos and percussion), Stravinsky, Schoenberg - but it was a good ten years before I could really get excited about Mozart.


Du holde Kunst...
Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyon
bennevis #1996713 12/09/12 02:26 AM
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I really love Micheal Daugherty's La Tombaue De Liberace

Which is a cool piano concerto making use of Liberace's style of piano playing.

Or Liebermann's 2nd piano concerto

Last edited by jdhampton924; 12/09/12 02:28 AM.
Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyon
bennevis #1997016 12/09/12 05:16 PM
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Ligeti. Not unknown, but a very fine piece IMHO.

Also, Takemitsu: "riverrun". This one's from his somewhat neo-impressionist late style. A beautiful piece of music, though it's just one movement at (IIRC) about 15 minutes, probably not long enough to fit the bill.

I also happen to think André Jolivet's piano concerto is very underplayed (as is most of his output, actually). The harmonic language is a very extended tonality with a generous dash of exoticism. Think of it as a modern Saint-Saens 5.

And I like the Carter concerto, though I doubt it qualifies as "accessible", whatever that means.


I have an ice cream. I cannot mail it, for it will melt.
Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyon
bennevis #1997070 12/09/12 07:40 PM
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Kevin Oldham - Concerto for Piano, Op. 14 - (1991)

Succumbed to AIDs on March 11, 1993 at the age of 32. CD of the concerto is on a disc entitled "Memento Bittersweet" issued by RCA in 1994.

The concerto has received multiple performances and deserves wider recognition.


Marty in Minnesota

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Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyon
bennevis #1997076 12/09/12 07:58 PM
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Why not try me? I am a modern composer who writes classical music in a rock idiom. A sound file and free score are available here: http://composersforum.ning.com/profiles/blogs/american-anthem

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Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyon
bennevis #1997129 12/09/12 09:58 PM
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Schnittke Concerto for Piano and Strings. Wonderful piece of music!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGSq4Kc8GNU

Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyon
bennevis #1997875 12/11/12 12:52 PM
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Thanks for all the suggestions.

I think it's one of the things (good & bad) about being a pianist that there is such a huge repertoire that noone need ever stray from the concertos of Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin; or alternatively, Brahms, Liszt, Schumann and Grieg; or alternatively Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky....and so on.

As for the ones by Henselt, Scharwenka, Anton Rubinstein, Paderewski, Moszkowski etc, only a very few entreprising pianists even bother to look at them.

Which might be why so many contemporary concertos - even really good ones - today only ever get a few hearings (often only by the pianist it was written for), and then are never heard again. Apart from the ones written for Ashkenazy that I mentioned earlier, there's Marc-André Dalbavie's (written for Leif Ove Andsnes) as well as Salonen's (written for Yefim Bronfman). Will anyone else ever play them?

Then the ones written by pianist-composers, like John Ogdon, whose marvellous concerto has been recorded by him.....and not been heard again since.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
Re: A favorite accessible contemporary piano concerto, anyone?
bennevis #2050947 03/19/13 03:02 PM
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Actually, I do know of a new accessible, melodic, modern piano concerto. Actually, I just wrote one. If you're interested, I could send you a recording.

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